A Rant: In Praise of The Unremarkable

Norman Scanlon

When I rant, it is not a knee-jerk reaction. It is more like a slow burn. Stuff accumulates in my brain until I can’t take it any more. And then it breaks loose.

Here’s the kindling that has started today’s fire: Endless “manifestos” about dreaming your way to success and adventure.  Over and over we are pounded with rainbow bombs until you begin to believe that if you’re not dreaming your way to a better life then there must be something wrong with you. The conversation usually starts with something like this:

 “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

A mantra like this, and thousands like it, may be posted on a Facebook page or Twitter stream and then people chime in:

“Amen!”

“YESSSSS!”

“This is so true!  This is what I needed to hear!”

Sometimes I wonder if people even think about these things they are writing and responding to.

Let me tell you about my grandfather. For 50 years, he was a plumber mucking through the sewage pipes of Pittsburgh. As far as I know he never traveled more than 200 miles away from his home … which was about two miles from the place he was born. I do not believe he ever stepped on a boat or an airplane. He loved to read, tend to the roses in his garden, and listen to sports on the radio.  He was happy with a cup of black coffee and a bowl of his home-made bean soup.

If you asked my grandfather about his latest “daring adventure” I think you would get a blank stare.

And yet, his life was certainly worthwhile and admirable.  He raised two great kids and his family was always warm, safe and fed.  He worked tirelessly for his church. He was a great plumber who would do a job for a chicken or some scraps of wood if his customers couldn’t pay. He was a devoted husband, and he was hilarious. My grandfather was a great man, a joyful man, and I think there is something to be said for that.

Transcending self-interest

I understand that people love these little self-help validations in the social media stream, but you can be a great and worthy person without writing your manifesto, living out of your box, or daring to be a failure.  Sometimes life gets in the way and the best you can do is deal with it …

  • I have a friend who has a truly great idea for a new business. To make it work he would have to quit his well-paying job and take a tremendous financial risk for at least two years. He also has six children to feed and clothe. He is keeping his job. You know, I respect that.
  • I have a college friend who is a life-long soldier. He really needs to follow orders and stay “in the box.” He is not living a dream, he is not inventing, or creating art, or even building his Klout score, but I am really happy he is keeping us safe and free through his sacrifice.
  • One of my business colleagues has put his career on hold to raise two special needs kids. He and his wife are exhausted and stressed every day. They have no time to create, innovate, blog, or dream about rainbow lives. At the end of the day they simply collapse in exhaustion.

Centering your life only on a “Living Your Dream” manifesto seems to be a shallow, naive, elitist, and self-absorbed way to look at life.

And yet, the message in our culture is pervasive.

Rainbow Bombs

We are bombarded by marketing, advertising and social media rainbow bombs that imply that if we’re not exceptional, we’re nothing.

“How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?” – Seth Godin

Really?

I don’t see anything in this world that makes following a dream easy for anybody.  In fact, I would say it is remarkable to be remarkable.

I respect Seth Godin but his new book The Icarus Deception is dripping with rainbow bombs — head-in-the-clouds advice about aiming for remarkable by striving to create art in your daily work. You know, sometimes, a person just has to work in their daily work. Yes, I just became the first blogger in history to criticize Seth Godin.  How’s that for poking the box?

The tagline for a new car commercial is “Normal can never be amazing.” The product? Mini Cooper. Not exactly on my list of amazing cars. We are living in an age where the expectation is unicorns and rainbow colored visions of the world even for a car that looks like a golf cart on Botox.

I’m not saying you should not follow your dreams. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be remarkable or fight every day to realize your promise and potential.  You should. I’m just looking for a little balance around this place and a celebration of the human qualities that really make the world work:

  • Putting your family first instead of your “art,” especially when there are children who depend on you.
  • Sacrificing for the less fortunate.
  • Not just “lending a hand,” but BEING the hand.
  • Dispensing hope in the midst of crisis.
  • Doing good without tweeting about it.
  • Being enthusiastic and happy even when you are working on a task you despise.
  • Being an authentic leader and mentor.
  • Surviving tragedy and having the courage to re-ignite your life.
  • Taking a stand in the face of hate and intolerance.

Now there’s a manifesto.

Here’s to the real people.

The Facebook World does not celebrate the people who make something on this list their life focus.  These people are not going viral … and they’re not worried about going viral.  And yet, that is almost all of us.

Friends, it is honorable to live a life that transcends self-interest.

Today, I celebrate the “most of us.”  Let’s have at least one blog post in this world for the humble, the brave, the suffering, the faithful, and the exhausted. Today I celebrate the plumbers of the world who work in the sewers to put bread on the table. That is something to be proud of … even if it’s not a work of art.

Right?

Illustration: Yes, that is my grandfather.

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  • Love this post Mark. You speak such words of truth. I am too very much struggling with the same things I am seeing you write about lately & I don’t know what to do about it. There seems to be more and more people who claim to be experts who are taunting their klout & other scores. They preach authenticity, dreams, quality over quantity. Yet some of them are auto tweeting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Some of them average a tweet every 3-5 minutes constantly. Yet, they preach dreams, inspiration, success so people follow them, believe them, drink the rainbow Kool-aid. Why? Because they want to be happy. Our Pastor always talks about the millions of folks who come to visit Orlando every year. They are looking for happiness, the happiest place on earth. So, social media is a similar thing. The influence score crazed have learned they can build an inflated influence score, a biz and even a so called “life” on this happiness that people yearn for.

    I have friends who don’t know what Twitter is let alone how to tweet or what Klout is. They are bankers, plumbers, electricians, workman in hospitals, fix veterans hospital machines, trucks and the list goes on. They are real people, they inspire me daily. Here is to them. Here is to the real people. The folks who don’t care if their scores are 45 or 85, the people who choose life, not tweeting 24/7.

    Not sure of my point here in this comment other than I agree with you. SO excited to meet you IRL at social slam life this week! Long time comin’ my friend. xoxo

  • For what it’s worth, your grandfather sounds like he may very well have been remarkable, but not in a mainstream, mass acceptance way. I consider some of my friends that don’t speak multiple languages, blog often, make buckets of money, etc to be remarkable because they do something worth remarking on like being great parents, taking care of their friends, or something else. Others though are unremarkable because they simply accept life as it is or they are always lazy or don’t work hard, etc, etc, etc.

    In my mind, the fallacy is believing that you have to be rich or blazing trails or whatever else to be remarkable. Sometimes, it’s more remarkable to work hard and make the most of your circumstances.

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  • Thank you for this Mark. Just what I needed to hear while re-thinking the direction of my business future. As a consultant to small business owners I learned from the beginning that those “rainbow bombs” are not relevant to them.
    However, in small doses “liking” a inspiring quote on my Facebook wall makes my day just a tiny bit better.

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  • Everyone has a role in life imho. It may simply be to do some random act which results in something else happening. As simple as helping out a stranger, smiling at someone who is having a bad day, or it could be something huge. Do something good for someone with no expectation of anything in return and be grateful for something or someone each day. I also believe in big dreams though, we didn’t escape the caves by looking at the sky and wondering if it would rain.

  • Thanks for the very wonderful comment Pam. Can’t wait to meet you soon!

  • Amen to that Eric. I believe that everyone is amazing in some way, sometimes in just finding a way to get through life. I have a distaste for a world that dismisses this private courage.

  • Thanks for the balanced perspective. I’m delighted you enjoyed the post.

  • Agree and many thanks for taking the time to comment Luigi.

  • This is such an easy trap to fall into. We want to feel good. Who wouldn’t?

    But art can be the ability to grind and furthermore grinding in it’s own right is an art form. It doesn’t have to be magical and beautiful…

    A worthy rant.

    Thank you,

    Ryan H.

  • You’re going to be at Social Slam, Pam?! I didn’t know that. Looking forward to seeing you there!

  • Well said brother.

  • I feel you on this. I’m a big fan of positive thinking and inspiration to help motivate oneself to achieve goals. Always have been. But, I definitely agree that there is a lot of this sentiment being bandied about the web. I just hope that people use the inspiration to DO something with it….instead of just nodding along or feeling like they don’t measure up because they’re not “living the dream”.

    It might just be the world I live in, but it seems there’s a big push for entrepreneurship as if that’s the only way to live the dream or be successful. I’m a big fan of that, but it’s not for everyone. We shouldn’t pretend that it’s easy OR the only path to a happy, fulfilling life.

    I think the thing that we need to remember is that what is remarkable for one person is not for another. For someone dealing difficult circumstances, just getting out of the bed in the morning might be remarkable. We all face our own battles. And, everyone’s life journey is going to look a little different. I think everyone has something valuable to contribute. We just each have to embrace our own path, our own strengths and our own little way of making a difference on this planet.

  • I love you for writing this. I’ve written things in a similar vein but not as well written as this. Well done. A lot of those ‘live your dream’ manifestos do a better job of making you feel like not good enough than actually make you go live your dream. The parent that is just raising their kids and providing for them is remarkable too. Even if they’re job doesn’t seem glamorous.

  • I too cringe at yet another “dare to shoot for the moon” Facebook or blog post. That’s where I see the bulk of them. They don’t last long in a Yammer community, most G+ communities, LinkedIn groups… But sure, there are too many of them.

    I do not scoff at those who shelve their dreams and take the straight-and-narrow J-O-B that is the certain way to provide for the family. For some of us, we would disgust ourselves to no end if we yearned to make our own way in the world and declined to do so – more out of uneasiness at the prospect of risk.

    I had two grandfathers who were diligent, hard-working breadwinners, and are remembered for their prudence, acceptance of responsibility and living lives peppered with sacrifice for loved ones. Funny how I have never heard one other or their survivors note how it was always clear that they lived and died with the daily nagging discontent of knowing they had what they were certain were big ideas – that they would not commit to. I believe they caved in to soft comfortable blanket of society’s lullaby: “good, honest, hard-working man.” Oh, no one will ever scorn the man who works 60-hour weeks to make someone else rich and waits in line for a side of daily crow along with his main course: sensing that he actually never ventured out into the rough sea of entrepreneurship more for fear of the unknown than for his “remarkable” acquiescence to societal pressures.

    That said, I never thought little of my grandfathers, as I surely am not suggesting anything about anyone else. Only, I am not going out that way. I will leave behind a large wake in a rough sea, or die working on things that are not small.

  • I think what is partially in the back of my mind is the post I wrote a few weeks ago about the study showing that about a third of the folks on FB feel jealousy as their overwhelming emotion. I have this picture of people absorbing these rainbow bombs every day and it just gnaws a their self worth and perhaps even their ambition — even though they have a perfectly admirable life.

    I would just like to see more people out there saying, “let’s get through this together” instead of “you need to be creating art or you’re a poor excuse for a human.”

    To be human is to suffer. That’s part of authenticity too.

  • I love you back for commenting on this. : )

    My kids are grown but I loved every minute of the experience. I can tell you that changing diapers is not creating art. But I would not have changed a single moment of the experience! Thanks, Denise.

  • Good for you Saul. I admire your tenacity.

  • Facebook is a strange animal. It’s amazing, crazy and somewhat sad how much it impacts our lives in so many different ways. It’s really profound, isn’t it?

    I agree – we all need each other to get through things. I think we could all use a litte more encouragement. Maybe we need to spend less time on memes and more time reaching out and lifting up people individually. That kind of effort can make an impact.

  • Lots of food for thought here, loving the comments too. I am totally a rainbow unicorn chaser and get really, really frustrated I haven’t “caught” mine yet. Thanks for pointing out the flip side of the coin. Off to reassess some things…

  • I have been thinking about this a lot lately … probably too much. How Facebook is shaping culture, forging huge behavioral changes, even breaking up families and destroying lives.

    I recognize the opportunity for good but are we really using it that way? We have the power of all human information and global connection at our fingertips and we use to see funny pictures of cats and argue with each about politics. Is positive world change really occurring on FB or is it still happening more powerfully in other places in the world?

  • You rock, Mark! – Can I copy Seth Godin on this when I tweet it? 🙂 … Seriously, I very much related to this post and thank you for it … The most ‘remarkable’ people I’ve met in my life do what they do for the sheer love of it and don’t think about getting anything in return … And this holds true whether it’s business-related, about family or friends, hobbies, spirituality, philanthropy, travel, animal rescue, fitness ~ et al. They are, in fact, very much like your grandfather … 🙂

  • I feel a little guilty and hope I have not added to your frustration! I checked out your blog and think it is very beautiful both in its presentation and in your writing, which is indeed remarkable. It also appears like you make some damn fine cookies.

    Like you, I suffered from depression (twice in my life). Thankfully it was episodic and not a chronic condition but I do understand through experience and can empathize with your struggles. I’d only encourage you to keep working hard to stay present and connected with whatever works for you. If the rainbows and unicorns help, then keep at it and don’t let me get you off track in any way. I can tell you are an amazing person with a kind and authentic heart. I hope you are in touch with these very rare and important gifts. We need more Meaghans in the world!

  • Many thanks friend. And also, thank you very much for your consistent support on Twitter over the years. Glad to see you stop by the blog, too!

  • I have often wondered while sloshing through my Facebook stream, wow I must be doing something wrong! Struggled to get a college degree and some, raised a daughter with sole custody from 11 years old and sacrificing many career opportunities, plugging along in corporate life trying to gain as much knowledge before stepping out, etc. Now, I read, chunk that, the brass ring is right there, grab it! Well bullshit, life has hard bumps, good recognized work is often hard to achieve and not everyone wins, keep forging on. Good and appropriate rant Mark.

  • Beautifully said Randy. Nothing to add other than to say thank you and I look forward to meeting you at Social Slam!

  • Gosh! Thanks for the glowing compliments! I really appreciate you taking the time to visit my site.

    And please don’t feel guilty! I meant more along the lines of reassessing + accepting where I am at now while I work towards catching that unicorn…which I am determined to find 😉 I get really overwhelmed and feel light years behind (which is crazy, I know I’m really not) when I see where “everyone else” is at while they declare go big or go home. I’m sure that’s the anxiety kicking in. Also thinking about how big do I want to go vs. how big I feel I need to go…
    Thanks again!

  • Those are huge issues and so relevant. A great blog post for you?!

    I had those same feelings starting out. I just looked at these people out there and thought “can I do that? Could I ever catch up?” And it seemed impossible.

    The biggest lesson I learned was to not try to be anybody else. And believe me, by looking at your blog I can tell you are light years ahead of where I was when I was starting out.

    I think “go big” is relative and it has to be measured INTERNALLY, not externally. In a world of tweets and likes that is very, very hard to really focus on, but at least for me, it helps to center on the “why” I am doing something more than what the rest of the world is going to judge you. If you look at the rest of the world for acceptance, there will never be enough reward, there will never be any satisfaction, only constant pursuit of “big.” I’m a work in progress too in that regard. Obviously!

  • What is success? ‘Followers’ or ‘Friends’? Awards? Money? Family? I’ve spent the last 5 years at home with my daughter while my wife is working – what a joyful experience. I’ve just been watching your Social Media Mindset series as an author looking to restart my career. I realised it was for me when I saw your comments on Meaningful content and authentic helpfulness. Your grandfather sounded like a genuinely authentic guy and it seems that you’ve inherited that too. thank you.

  • Michelle Weaver

    Couldn’t agree more Mark. I was watching a video on Facebook the other day where a cute little boy in a suit was reeling off cliche after cliche about shooting for your dream. Not his words methinks! Someone behind the camera hoping it would go viral more likely. Your Grandad sounds legendary in his humble, useful existence.
    Thanks for a great thought provoking read.

  • To be joyful, to transcend one’s self-interest – it’s one of the greatest achievement of all. And one of the hardest one to attain in a culture that equates value with attention, success with fame.

    Today you’ve become more than just another trusted resource on all things social. I have this new respect for you because you’ve put a human face to that list of social media and business experts in my head. This post has helped me washed away some of the secret shame that I’ve been carrying around for some time (for doubting how good or relevant a social business strategist am I because I Iet career options fly by so I can have more time for my boy; for not shining as brightly as I want and for many times rueing having to stand from the outside looking in when I know I have so much to offer.) In fact, most of the times I do feel great and inspired is when I think of what I can do for others beyond social. Thanks for the reminder.

  • I think this fits in with modern society’s sense of entitlement, and the idea that everyone needs to be “a winner” or else nobody should win. In my own life, I find that sometimes the greatest satisfaction comes from doing the hard work, oftentimes the rejects or tasks that interest me the least or that are a great physical or mental challenge. This kind of “Wonder Bread” personal affirmation junk does not build character, help you develop skills, or get you ahead in life, but hard work — getting your hands dirty — does all of that, whether physical labor or information work. I agree with others here: you need to transcend self-interest to really achieve.

  • Thanks very much Vince and thanks for sacrificing for your daughter!

  • Oh that would make me sick. A self-help Honey Bob Boo? We don’t need that.

  • Very, very well said. As a society we tend to confuse the definition of success with fame and fortune. Some of the most successful people I know and that I admire the most are the everyday heroes that find so many ways to give back to their communities.

    Your grandfather sounds like he was a delightful man.

  • Amelia

    Amen! YESSSSS!

  • RhondaHurwitz

    Wonderful post, Mark, and I’m glad you pointed out how ridiculous our little social media bubble can get with these platitudes. Ride the NYC subway any morning at 6am and look at the faces of the laborers going to work or nurses getting off the night shift … no rainbow bombs for them, but they keep our world functioning for the rest of us. I have a colleague whose 98 yr. old grandfather’s funeral is this week. I took a moment to learn about him, and found out that he did indeed “take a stand in the face of hate and intolerance”. No tweets, no blogs, but a meaningful life … more so than most. The world is filled with unsung heros. We need more of them … not more pixelated pollyana’s and paper tigers:)

  • Here’s my secret competitive advantage — my kids are grown. I have always been a hard worker but when they were growing up, I never missed a baseball game or school performance because I knew that opportunity would only come once and my time with them was fleeting.

    I recently had a similar talk with a friend who is a single mom who was envious of my current lifestyle. She simply doesn;t have that flexibility for clients or travel right now. I pointed to the fact that the most important thing is to be a great parent at this phase of her life. Those days are past for me but I miss it every day. Her time will come — sooner than she knows — and yours will, too!

    You probably don’t hear this right now but some day your son will realize what you sacrificed and he will turn to you and say, “you’re remarkable, mom. Thank you.”

    Thanks for the very kind comment and thank you for transcending self interest Timi. You made my day!

  • MaureenMonte

    Pardon me whilst I laugh hysterically at that funny remark. Self-help Honey Boo Boo…omg.

  • What an exceptional and wise comment Christian. I am so very grateful you took the time to comment today. Thank you.

  • He was. Never grumbled. Knew how to relax. Took joy in the simple pleasures of life. I need to be more like him, believe me! : )

  • Thanks very much for sharing that Rhonda! Truly, I believe this is “the most of us.”

  • I wish I had not created that image in my head.

  • MaureenMonte

    “Look at me! Look at me!” Are you looking? If you are, then I’ve won today’s Media Gold Medal. (And I’ll be doing everything I can to win again tomorrow). We’ve created a “look at me!” society, fed by crazy hollywood types, athletes (Dennis Rodman in North Korea? Really?), and as Mark said, the Honey Boo Boo’s of the world. If you’ve grown up that way (and I used to photograph “trophy kids” – hated it) then you are “empty” unless someone is looking at you. Invisible. Nada. A ghost. Mark, you said life is suffering (hello Buddha!) and be the hand – I loved that. The west has a lot to learn about the internal journey to achieve external results. Your grandfather knew himself. You know yourself. YOU are totally awesome, and we know why. Isn’t that enough? Or does the spotlight have to be on you (the global you) all of the time? Good luck with that life, by the way – Kim K, Lindsay L, Paris H, Kate + 8, Octagon mommy, – really, all it takes is a low IQ and a camera. Hardly the tools of greatness. Nice work, my friend. See you in 4 days (but who is counting???)

  • Thanks for the awesome (that word again) post! : ) See you at Social Slam!

  • Mark, I’ve been reading your blog and following you on Twitter for a few months now. Lately you’ve been writing my heart’s thoughts. I have been in the digital business for years and the false imagery can be choking at times. Your words are refreshing and I truly hope you are genuine. You are a voice that is listened to which brings hope to my soul!

  • Miguel Perez

    Thanks for the post, Mark. That made me think about the book “The Antidote: Happiness for people who can’t stand positive thinking.” And it also made me think about my younger days as a tennis player. We, tennis players, realized that we had to sacrifice many things to become the best we could without the need for a medal. 99.9% of the time, we were “losers” but kept going without any recognition. Today, I see many sporting events where every participant gets a medal; otherwise, the kid (or the parent) feels like they did not accomplish anything. The point is that the post made me think, and that is a good thing -I think.

  • Well said Mark, I’ve always felt that Joseph Campbell’s follow your “Bliss” was the right mantra – you’re Bliss may be family and doing your best work. As with many artisan’s; your grandfather’s art, appears to be his family, his work, good works and his good nature. All worthy of emulation.

  • I have a dear friend who has always wanted the stability of having a steady paycheck at a job that was in one place. He doesn’t want to manage people, travel or yearn to be his own boss because that stresses him out.

    He likes the idea of a simple life style. Sometimes we forget that sort of thing is enough for many people and there is nothing wrong with it.

    Happiness comes from being happy with what we have. It doesn’t always require shooting for the moon.

  • I dare anyone to live the life I have been living recently and tell me that I am anything less than extraordinary. Not because I am some great person mind you, but because I hope to take all of my life experiences and help others who may wind up in my shoes one day.

  • You just described my life. I don’t know my Klout score. My singular achievement is raising my son to be a man. I prefer working on my house to social media. I’m pretty happy.

  • Meg Tripp

    First Tom’s “Friday Five”, and now this! I’m so delighted by the words you’ve put in my head.

    My grandfather worked the same job for 43 years (working his way up from a millworker to being the foreman of the entire operation), and found great joy in things like reading great books, keeping his house in solid repair, going to watch his grandkids play sports or sing in concerts, and volunteering for his church. He worked tirelessly, and gave us an incredible example of commitment and consistency. His life was not without some very tough moments over the years, but his priorities always shone through in the midst of difficulty.

    I had the honor of speaking at his funeral, and this is what I said: http://www.megfowler.com/2007/06/02/because-how-else-would-i-do-it/

    Just about three years ago, I chose to move across a border and a continent to trade my “single girl working” life in for a husband and stepsons. People probably thought it was nuts (well, I know they did) and risky and rainbow-bomb-ish, but I think it was actually a vote for family, for hard work and shared goals, for a life with braces to pay off and new shoes to buy for feet that grow every month, and for baking muffins on Sunday mornings.

    My grandfather died eight months before I met my husband, and I wish he’d had the opportunity to meet him and to see the life I have now. But I know he’d recognize the commitment and consistency he valued reflected in my choices.

    There are big moments yet to come in this life of mine, but I take joy in the small, routine ones that might otherwise slip by unnoticed, too. I’d rather be a lamp than a lightning bolt.

  • Well, now you did it! 🙂 Excellent post and points. I’m taken back to numerous Multi-Level-Marketing presentations I’ve been to, promising that if I’d just hit the road and “show the plan” 6 nights a week I’d be rich and famous. It only would require sacrificing my family. I certainly do want to improve mine and my family’s lives, but rainbow bombs don’t offer anything practical. My dad isn’t well traveled or educated (stopped at grade 6) but managed to raise and support us. My grandfather did travel the world in service to his country, and became police chief of a very small town in retirement from the service. He certainly never became rich and famous, but spent a lifetime serving his country and community. Many times I realize how my “accomplishments” pale in comparison. Your grandfather sounds like he was a wonderful man.

  • ross_boardman

    Mark,

    Tomorrow I start a new consulting gig. That means I get on a train with my bags and live in a hotel during the week. Each night I will probably write a few words for my next book or study for my postgrad. The other option is going down to the bar and watching sports. When it comes to getting back that time, I don’t have to say I wasted it. When the weekend comes, I can spend the whole time with my wife and kids and no guilty conscience for having other stuff to do.

    I always believe in trying to do the right thing, even if it’s not the popular thing. A month or so ago I got into a very public fight with a very popular motivational speaker. My crime? Sticking up for Gordon Ramsay the chef. it would have been easy to repeat his cronies who “would never eat at his potty mouthed restaurants” etc. But no, I wade in on Ramsay’s side and get abused because I would let him “cuss at my wife”.

    When my kids reflect on the old git sat in the corner at the care home it would be great for them to think of me as the one who played with them rather than some corporate seal barking the latest corporate BS.

  • Mark,

    Thank you for your thoughtful post. As usual you go beyond the facade to the bedrock. I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes by Eleanor Roosevelt “Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived. ” From time to time I need to be reminded of these fundamental truths of life. Thank you for the reminder.

  • Gerry Michaels

    Mark, I could not agree more, when did we as a society decide that working hard for something was wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I like to be inspired as much as the next guy, but it takes more than that. I guess I will share one of my favorite quotes that is on one of my whiteboards in my office. It reminds me everyday of what success takes. “Nothing is going to work until you do” Maya Angelou…

    Additionally, it is important to not confuse success with happiness…

    PS. Thanks for inspiring my last post by the way…http://thesocialstudmuffin.com/social-media-influence/

  • Hello Dianna! I was just reading Mark’s article and thinking it through as I was scrolling the comments. Here’s to daily opportunities for happiness that add up over a lifetime.

  • Thank you for a to-the-point, and very wise blog post. I have also been blessed to have people in my life who stood their ground, did the hard stuff and just lived their lives. They showed up where they had to. True heroes. And to this day they inspire me to stick the hard stuff, too. I like your slow burn. 🙂

  • One of my grandfathers drove a city bus and the other drove a tractor on opposite sides of Tennessee. When I was a young boy, I only saw them on family trips at Thanksgiving or summer visits. They both lived through hard times but both had a great laugh and the ability to tell entertaining stories.

    My father died in a car accident when I was eight but my mother always encouraged me to develop my talents and follow my dreams. Finding a dream to follow was my biggest challenge.

    Neither of my grandfathers knew a thing about graphic design, art direction or advertising but I had the great fortune of their advice (mostly listening really) when I was in my early twenties and really needed it. Just as your grandfather was a noble man, so were both of mine. I’m named after both of them (William Charles Mitchell) and it’s a reminder to me to try to live up to their example of honest work, good humor and humility.

    We were both lucky to have had such great grandfathers!

  • Praying on human weaknesses, on their vanity, their need to feel special, wanted, loved.., their happiness. If we can find all that simply by buying a bottle of soda.., surely “inspirational” quotes can elevate us into remarkable people.

    I love this post (criticizing Seth Godin, how dare you.. 🙂
    Always pushing people to be more, buy more, get more, take more.., will leave them forever unfulfilled.

    Find your own path, live up to your own expectations, not those generated by an automated tweet tool. Yeh.., good rant Mark…

  • While reading your post I couldn’t help but think of people like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian–all of the Kardashians for that matter. I cannot for the life of me figure out what they contribute to society, and yet they are given so much attention it sickens me. Your post is about the real world of showing up every day, working hard, and making a contribution that hopefully makes our homes, neighborhoods, and communities better places. It’s not showy or glamorous, but it’s real and important. Thanks for stating the “hard truth” and for not being afraid to question Seth Godin; I respect both.

  • Thank you for these truths! It is so easy to get distracted by the shiny rainbow bombs and I need to remember daily that it is remarkable in itself to transcend self-interest.

  • Gettysburg Gerry

    Now there is a convo I would like to be able to attend…Randy have a great time and tell us all about your adventure. You too Mark, have fun…

  • I’m not perfect and don’t want anybody setting me up on a pedestal for any reason. But I do write from the heart and if i put it in my blog, you can take it to the bank. Thanks for your very kind words.

  • Bravo. I’d have followed the rainbow years ago if I didn’t have three mouths at home to feed. Very lovely, important mouths, mind you. As such, I’ve done okay not throwing caution to the wind. Appreciate the dose of reality, Mark.

  • I love and embrace the human qualities you mention in this post, Mark.

    In fact, its folks with big dreams who have a heart and vision for others and act on them who make the biggest contributions to society. And these come from ALL walks of life – plumbers and CEO’s alike.

    People are exactly where they are in life based on their vision (what they really believe about their life, because they are living it).

    Life isn’t easy. Life is hard. Life isn’t fair. Life can suck sometimes. It’s called reality.

    Reality snuffs out the dreams for most folks and they accept it. They come to the conclusion their dreams are not for them, but for other people to live, experience and fulfill.

    The dreams and vision of millions die every day because somebody else’s vision has taken over their life.

    That sucks. That is reality.

    You either have a mind to give or take in this world and that is revealed by the actions you take every day.

    The takers can’t see past themselves and those who have something to give are making the world go around for everybody else. One sucks the air out of the room and other provides it for others.

    The qualities you mention above are possessed by folks from all walks of life; they’re not bound by any class or profession.

    The bottom line is, words are the ONE and the ONLY thing that unlocks the full potential of any human being. Period.

    There is a war of words going on all around you every day, fighting for your very life… people just don’t really believe that and are swallowed whole by their outcome.

    If folks ate from table of unlimited and boundless more often, the results they’re experiencing in life would soar.

    I guess I wrote all of this to say rock on to the Seth Godin’s of the world and all of those who would write such inspirational words.

    They keep the balance with all of the crap the internet is littered with and unlock the full potential of the humble, the brave, the suffering, the faithful, and the exhausted every day.

    Cheers, Mark! : )

  • Oh I don’t want to put anyone on a pedestal…that goes against the whole point of this post, eh? 😉 But I am grateful for your truthfulness.

  • If i made you think, my job is done here! : ) Thanks Miguel!

  • Bravo, Mark.

  • L C

    Mark, this post is priceless. Our parents and grandparents did what they had to do to survive, and now that the entire world is connected, we are all struggling to survive. But it’s SO EASY to lose touch with reality when we are distracted digitally. I agree with your comments about Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception. I read the whole book and more than once, I found myself thinking, “I wonder what my mom or my grandma would think about all this advice?” Yes, I was very inspired. And that inspiration translated into action in my digital life. But has it translated into tangible results that provide value for myself and my family? No, not yet. As Seth put its, “I am paid to think about things.” He’s extraordinarily good at that. I would LOVE to get paid to think about things, too! But, so far, that ain’t happnin….

  • That’s it EXACTLY, Josh.

  • Catherine Maguire

    Thanks for the rant Mark, much appreciated. Rainbow Bombs, a fabulous name for it, I know what I’d like to do with them…

  • We live in a world that makes it very easy to compare ourselves because our lives are so publicly on display. But what we do is we judge the package by the wrapping paper. You may think you want somebody else’s life. But you don’t. You’ll get the parts that suck with the parts that are awesome. We’re kind of obsessed with this idea of trading up for a better life. However what we don’t realize is that there is no Facebook photo album for somebody’s inner turmoil. I’m working on making a conscious effort to celebrate little victories, appreciate what I have, and keep moving forward. In the midst of all that I share some rainbow bombs.

  • This is why I’m very, very selective in what I share on Pinterest. It’s also why I tend to disagree with Pressfield at times. How’s that for poking the box?

    I also think we should celebrate the plumbers and handymen. We say they are of no value when we champion rainbow dreams, and that is a horrible, horrible thing to say.

  • There’s an article on HBR titled “Is Facebook ruining our lives?” As I mentioned above, our lives are publicly on display. We presented edited, manicured versions of everything. You get the highlight reel of somebody’s life, not the raw footage.

  • This is as sweet as it gets. Although I’ve never needed any validation, the only reason I have a blog is to tell the stories about family members that came to this country as immigrants, achieving success with the “simple life” in America. For those clamoring for epic content ad nauseum, I suspect the content is “epic” to only me.

    I follow their principles to work and enjoy my life, and I do just fine. Cheers to your grandfather, Mark. We need more like him in this day and age!

  • Your grandfathers life WAS an adventure, and a success story and what some people dream of. ( I would have loved to have had children, but could not afford them 🙂 I think the “ordinary” needs to be praised more because this country was built on the backs of these stories. I have a hard time creating art due to my busy schedule of work just to stay afloat, but on my long commute each day I take photographs with my brain, make notes of what I would do with free time, and that helps the travel time seem a little less stressful. Life is a daring adventure of each of us, everyday. Doesn’t matter what we are doing, as long as we are doing it to the best of our abilities.

  • Oh, I’m with you Randy. I’m almost 24 and I see stories of people my age “living the dream” with great apartments in the city, going out to clubs, travelling for work, getting married and buying golden retrievers….sometimes I wonder if I missed something but I think deep down, at this point, I just wanted to be home with my mom who works two jobs and brother/best friend who’s in between school and spend as much time as I can with them and help in any way because eventually it will be time for me to move out and take advantage of new opportunities. If it means working from home and taking a hour metra train to the city so I can go out, sure thing. I’m pretty damn happy and will cherish the time I had! Work with what you have and you can be happy.

    Awesome rant Mark W. Schaefer, thanks for keeping us grounded.

  • I think success and happiness are what we define it as, not necessarily what others define for us. While I do like the inspirational quote to get me through a potential low period (we all need a short boost from time to time) I don’t hang my hat on them.

    We just wrapped up reading “Every Good Endeavor” by Tim Keller. He talks about work in a way that doesn’t say “drop everything and take a huge risk” like we normally hear but talks about having pride in work. How we’re designed to work, no matter what your occupation is.

    I think that’s the white space in the business world. Having pride in what you currently do. There’s more contentment to be found there. Too often contentment is confused with complacency today, which is sad. They don’t mean the same thing at all.

  • Well said Gordon. Thank you.

  • Boom.

  • What a wonderful and generous sentiment Nancy. Thank you!

  • Boy I have missed you. BTW, your klout score is 61. Kidding, kidding!!

  • Amen to that Billy.

  • A very grounded perspective Brad. I really adored my grandfather!

  • I think that is an interesting image. Thinking about how you will be remembered as you approach the end game. Of course I am a lot closer to that than you! My goal right now is to “finish well.” Weird to be here, frankly. Thanks for the great comment!

  • You’re welcome. Was great seeing you this week!

  • Ha! That’s a first. Nobody has complimented my slow burn before : )

  • I adored my grandfather but gratefully, was not named after him … Norman would be a bit dated today! By his spirit and life lessons certainly live on in me as yr family lives on through you my friend! See you at Social Slam!

  • Thanks for taking the time to comment today, Rogier.

  • Thanks Shauna. I do like Seth’s stuff, mostly. : )

  • That is exactly right. That is going to be my new rainbow bomb. “Transcend self-interest.”

  • Hurray for the home team. I knew this would resonate with you because at our hearts, we have the same roots. Always an honor to ave. you stop by Jason.

  • You are such a wise man. I can’t wait to meet you. We need to make that happen!

  • LOL! Hey, you earned it! (Meant to say thank you for the blogging book, too! One does like to stalk, but one is most grateful!)

  • Here’s to the do-ers! ; ) I do not think the Icarus Deception is very practical but it makes some good points. Honestly he pretty much keeps making the same points in every book.

  • Thanks so much for calling out rainbow bombs for what they are. I’d like to see more conversations about finding happiness and satisfaction in what you have in life. Right now. And: more rants, please! I’ll be happy to patiently wait while they percolate.

  • What would happen if you also shared your inner turmoil? Risky, but the heart of originality.

  • I think that is implied with these fanciful statements. They make me cringe. Thanks Erin.

  • Thanks for adding your story today Joseph.

  • Mark — I’ve been writing about this topic — or maybe writing around it is a better word — for months now. Some days I feel like I’m saying the emperor has no clothes. Glad you posted it!

  • Hey Billy, Nice to see you!

  • I think that is a healthy perspective Sandra. Thanks for adding your voice to the community today.

  • Love Tim Keller!! Thanks for bringing up that reference Drew.

  • To me this is why people like James Altucher draw us in. He’s not afraid to share the dark parts. It’s taboo to write about things like depression and all the things that are wrong. Of course when people do we respect them. Your email about authenticity and etiquette gave me the next idea to write here. I think the inner turmoil portion will fit well.

  • Indeed, sir – that will be a good day!

    I have solid digital mentors, one of which is you, so I appreciate that very much.

    Rock on!

  • Leah

    years ago, when I fought the inner battle of staying home with my infant daughter and 5yo son vs immediate gratification life of critical care nurse, I heard a talk about “Mary, the mother of Jesus, content to be just that, how her life fades into the background, and yet we know that she was there, in the background, to teach Jesus, wipe his runny noses, etc… I decided then that some of the most important work is the unnoticed- by most, except maybe the ones we claim to love the most. I hope to never write a blog nor a book, nor speak nor be on a marque. I want to raise the ones who may do those things. 🙂

  • Excellent post Mark, Agreed, many need a priority check. Sometimes me too. We’re all fallible, beautiful humans. Thanks for the perspective. Best, T

  • Mark, I loved this! There is so much “fluff” that get posted – no one posts the real. We all have dreams that sometimes has to take a back seat to real life.

  • KatFrench

    This really hit home, Mark, and its an excellent course-correct in perspective. Aside from being wildly unrealistic, that whole attitude is designed to make you discontent, and steal whatever satisfaction you have in your life and work. It’s not “empowering.” It’s just exhausting and soul-sucking. Thanks for this.

  • Kathi Matthews-Risley

    I do know my Klout score but don’t think it accurately describes me. I care deeply about my children, the natural world, older people and young kids and my church. There are legions of people who get up everyday and go to work so their families are fed, safe and warm. And if you happen to get a glimpse of a sunrise, full moon or hear a crane fly overhead, that’s icing on the cake. Thanks for the great post.

  • Anne as I was often reminded by my grandmother, you need to be buried deep in the dirt before you can find a bloom. Sounds like yours will be full!

  • I shouldn’t comment on Mondays. LOL One DOESN’T like to stalk. So didn’t track you down. LOL

  • “Sometimes I wonder if people even think about these things they are writing and responding to.” <– Amen!

    "Centering your life only on a “Living Your Dream” manifesto seems to be a
    shallow, naive, elitist, and self-absorbed way to look at life." <– YESSS!

    Some day research will show us the true detrimental effects of all the social media rah-rah bullsh*t and narcissism we're increasingly surrounded by and participating in, and by then, unfortunately, it will likely be way too late to change course.

    I'm not saying that to sound cynical and gloomy, or exempting myself from it, but think of what it would take to roll back the cultural shift we're experiencing as part of the ubiquitous media/reality cycle that's emerged and is growing ever faster with smartphones, tablets and soon, Google Glass.

    For all of the many legitimate, positive benefits we gain from this increased connectivity, it also regurgitates the messiness of our daily (hourly?) lives for friends, employers, coworkers, strangers, etc. It doesn't seem like those who don't participate in all of the noise, like your grandfather, or my stepfather, were really missing out on too much of importance, right? They weren't posting images that say "Just Do It" — they were in fact, just getting it done.

    Thanks for the rant and poking the box with this one, Mark. Awesome post and I'm glad to see someone else was slow-burning on this subject as well.

  • Matthew Loomis

    Wonderful article, Mark!

    This takes me back to a time when I was a hardcore salesman
    for a well known direct sales (some call it multi level marketing) business.
    For four years, I was saturated in “rainbow bombs,” through books,
    cassette tapes, meetings and conferences. (This was before social media. The
    internet was just taking off.)

    I did learn a lot about sales through this experience, but
    there was also a downside to it.

    One thing I realized after leaving that business was how the
    constant rainbow propaganda and the leadership of the sales force created a
    mindset in me and most everyone involved to look down on “normal” or
    “regular” people.

    No matter what profession someone was in–even lawyers,
    doctors and teachers–they were seen as misguided, lost souls who needed to see the light of “the business.” Police officers… Pastors… Anyone who
    didn’t subscribe to the business was “not living the dream.”

    I am so glad to be free from that nonsense.

    Today, they are probably including online marketers and
    bloggers in their derision.

    What a shame.

  • Mark – At the end of the Oxford Cambridge boat race yesterday – the coach from Oxford will have said to the crew “Good row”. Yes, they will be honoured and feted for years to come – but for those that spent 1200+ hours training and had its worth condensed into 20 minutes, “Good row” is what they did it for.

    In my view you just announced “good row” for your grandfather, understated, clearly understood – well done! For the record – though happen to support dark blue, congratulations should also go to the loosing team. Hard work while not achieving your dreams also builds character – I trust the experience will serve them well in the future as it should, however much it hurts right now.

  • Mark, thank you for this refreshing post that brings reality back into the picture. Not everyone can afford to be remarkable, to go through years with no income to follow their dream. I definitely admire those who do and even those who try and don’t succeed. But for “most of us,” we shouldn’t be made to feel like we’re not living life to the fullest because we live a “normal” life. To me, having success in life is finding happiness, no matter how each person defines that happiness. We also shouldn’t be made to feel that we’re not living up to our potential because of those “rainbow bombs.” I can’t tell you enough how much I appreciate this post.

  • Mark – Did your grandfather in any way “settle for less” – or did he opt for more – his way ? – Sometimes I think it is the yardstick that we choose that defines success!

  • Rachel Gattuso

    I was listening to the score for Schindler’s List while reading this and the pairing was powerful… I almost cried. Thank you so much for this, Mark. I’ll be spreading it to the far corners of my world today. With much respect…

  • Thank you so much for this.

  • Great post. Totally agree. I think we soemtimes forget the wonder of simply living. Sometimes I wonder if we have built a world in which we are expected to become something, whatever that something is, but as long as you are looking for something else you will never experience and understand what is around you. I kind of think that you have to love what you invest your time into for itself and then sometimes recognition comes later.

  • Karen Highland

    I can’t think of a thing to add to this conversation, except yesss! I just wanted to leave a comment to say thanks for this. Thanks for bringing us back to the issue of Character. (my grandfather was also a plumber, and much like yours, made a good life.) Here’s to making a good life!

  • Love, love, love that Manifesto. Thanks for writing this article Mark.

  • Yvonne Root

    Amen.

    Last night, I asked my daughter how the world was turned so upside down so quickly. And we were talking about the very topic you’ve covered.

    The Real secret is hard work, the right set of circumstances (some would say luck) and being persistent. And the gosh awful truth is even those 3 things guarantee nothing.

    I like your style, Mark.

  • Christopher Rollyson

    @Mark, I call this phenom “#socialmedia pixie dust” and also find it provocative, especially when I can detect no substance whatsoever to substantiate the claim or promise. Conversely, though, I also observe that most parts of life and society are transforming to the core due to the shift away from the Industrial Economy – to the Knowledge Economy. This is transforming the concepts of “work,” “career,” “family,” “marriage,” “education” and “friendship,” to name only a few. I observe that people have far more choice in all aspects of their lives than ever before. HowEVER, it takes courage and hard work to make it happen. Sure, there will always be exceptions to the rule, but in business, expect the long road (and pack for it ;^). Creativity will continue to grow as a portion of “work” because novelty adds value, even when it’s grounded in entertainment. But creativity is also hard work, and the market sorts out people that promise, dream and can’t deliver. Plus ça change!

  • I’ve been having this discussion with close friends for the past week. Not all of us need to be known for something, sometimes we just need things to work, be less stressful, have a moment of piece or focus on one thing.

    I mean, what the hell? Someone has to be the plumber, the electrician, the housekeeper and the barista.

    Taking a job and making the decision that your family comes first isn’t settling for less, it’s being a hero to the people that love you.

    And that’s really okay. It’s okay to be exactly who you are. I’m discovering that in a good way the past 2 or so weeks. I’m grateful to you for reiterating it.

  • As I said in my tweet, I give this post an enthusiastic, hootin’ & hollerin’ standing O.

    I don’t know where it happened, but somewhere along the way we seem to have lost sight of how valuable “small” work is. We let ourselves get swept up by the notion that in order to be anybody, we have to be Somebody. We confused fulfillment with popularity and value with flash. We started to feel badly about ourselves if we weren’t able to make a living just being our “amazeballs” selves.

    We also forgot that sometimes work is work. If everyone ran around tossing rainbow bombs from the backs of sparkly unicorns, who would sow the fields, raise the children, and fix the plumbing?

    The irony is that more often than not, those “unremarkable” jobs are the ones that make the biggest difference to real people in Real Life. Blow the pixie dust off the navel-gazing crowd, and you’ll find there’s nothing there but belly button lint. Look more closely at the “small” work – the menial and mundane – and you will see the backbone that supports our whole society: parents, teachers, farmers, craftsmen, tradesmen, volunteers of all kinds. These are the real heroes – the ones who aren’t in it for the glitz and glamour. The people who just want to do the right thing the right way for the right reasons.

  • Wow! We opened it up here :-). I agree with you and disagree with you. I do agree that there are people that make sacrifices in order for their families to exist. I agree that there are people who some would consider “unremarkable” that are HEROES, if not to the world, then to their families. Here’s where I disagree. You note that your college friend is not living a dream. You probably have more insight than I do. But from the words written alone, who’s to say he’s not? Dreams come in all shapes and sizes and none of them are good or bad. They are just dreams. I love dreams by the way, the variety, the inspiration, the intensity. Seth Godin’s statement? One of hope, for me at least. And sometimes hope is all we have. Honesty? Life sucks sometimes. And there is NOTHING you can do about it when family members get sick. Nothing you can do when tragedy happens. But no matter how hard it is, at the bottom of it all, many of us do still have the ability to choose how we look forward. Harder for some than others, yes, but possible.

    I love rainbows. They remind me of hope. Of promise. Of diversity. Of variety. Of the fact that none of us is the same and yet we are. Of the fact that we CAN dream. I have several dreams. One of them involves being wildly successful and helping people to accomplish things in their lives they they never thought possible. The other involves making sure that my 3 children are provided for, safe, loved, fed and grow up knowing that its ok for them to dream too. Guess which one I’m tending to first? And I’m thrilled about it. Not only am I thrilled, I’m a hero :-).

    I get what you are saying. Not knocking it or your right to say it. I just think that we already have tons of balance. On one hand, there is the 11 o’clock news and on the other, there is hope 🙂

  • Love that post but for the life of me could not find you social sharing buttons : (

  • WOW! What a comment. I hope you turn this into a blog post. It’s a great article in its won right! Thanks for sharing with us Meg.

  • Maybe you can do both : ) Your time will come too, as it did for me. Thanks Leah!

  • Yeah, it really is. But there must be a market for it : )

  • A lovely sentiment, and I thank you!

  • Nice contribution Hunter. I’m glad you liked the post!

  • Wow what an amazing story. I guess people can get really caught up in that stuff. Really appreciate the wonderful story Matthew.

  • Between Mark’s Rainbow Bombs and your “Rainbow Kool-aid”, you two have now codified a sentiment that I have been dancing around for months, unnamed and grey, now named and OH-SO-CLEAR. Boom!

    p.s. My grandfather worked 40 years as a lineman for Kansas City Power & Light while my grandmother (with MS) raised 7 children. Quietly heroic.

  • You are really a gifted writer. I love this comment James. Better than the original post!

  • That is so great. Thanks for letting me know. You made my day!

  • I don’t think it was either. I think a big part of this is societal expectations of success. The way my grandfather worked, and what he was reinforced for, was not too far away from the medieval craft guilds. You worked hard and there was a code of honor. You were satisfied enough in providing for you family.

    This changed with the era of mass advertising, which really just started in the 1920s. It created a glamorous view of “normal” which is now just gone completely crazy. I think my grandfather just “was.” Society now expects us to “become.”

  • So nice to hear from one of my very first Twitter friends! Thank you!

  • I think you nailed it. As long as the culture of “becoming” is reinforced, we will keep buying things. : )

  • Here’s to the plumbers. Many thanks Karen!

  • That means a lot Luis!

  • You might enjoy Malcolm Gladwell’s new book Outliers. It shows that success almost always depends on an incredible amount of dedication and a lot of luck! Thanks so much Yvonne!

  • Very interesting take on that Christopher and you’re right — the market will make the adjustment, won’t it?

  • That is so awesome Chel. Keep fighting the good fight and stay centered. Sounds like you have a really awesome attitude about life!

  • You do realize that you just wrote one AMAZING blog post? You are a tremendous writer!! Why aren’t we working together more often? Thanks Jamie.

  • First let me say that I’m delighted to hear from you. It’s been too long.

    I’m trying to figure out where we disagree. I’m not against dreams, hard work and hope. I agree with what you say here.

    Here’s what I’m against. 1) a world that creates an unrealistic expectation of success which feeds an unending cycle of personal dissatisfaction and professional pressure 2) People who sugarcoat a lack of intelligence, skill, dedication and work ethic with self-help hooey they think will allow them to “will” themselves to success and 3) a culture that enables all of this.

    I do a lot of college guest lectures. I’ll bet I have seen more than a thousand students in many good universities over the past year. In general, I am totally underwhelmed. 90% seem to think the world is just going to happen for them. If they can dream it, they can do it. Ummm, no. It does not work that way. They think it works that way because popular culture and even their parents are telling them that but you still need to COMPETE. You need to work, you need to earn a living.

    I really worry about a world of people spinning in circles trying to follow Seth’s advice to create art every day. And I know I’m simplifying his message. I truly agree with the main point of his book. But it’s another touchpoint in a culture that is focused on entitlement instead of achievement and self-centeredness instead of the core values that make this world really work.

  • Your posts bring out the best in me … get me all fired up and philosophical. Can’t help myself. 🙂 Oh … and happy to work with you anytime.

  • This article has been in my head all day and I had to revisit it with a bit of personal perspective.

    I started my own business this year – chasing my dream – one might say, but others might say it’s been a way to overcome some adversity. Either way, it’s darn hard work. It’s taken away time from my ‘art’ and my personal writing, but it’s putting food on the table and will hopefully fund college for my youngest son.

    What you speak of and what resonates most with me, is that whatever we pursue, we should do it for the right reasons. If we seek fame and fortune our future is sure to be shallow.

    If we seek to serve others, to inspire, motivate, share, and in some way make the world a better place – what better dream could we hope to achieve?

  • Ahhhh, the “form-a-circle-with-your-index-and-thumb-then-meditate-and-sing-kumbaya-and-your-dreams-will-magically-appear” theory. Got it. Yes, you are right. That one is all too prevalent :-).

    Hard works always has to accompany dreams. People are glamorizing the easy part of the story. Gotcha.

    Agreed that it has been too long. Lets make a point to connect again.

  • Mark, you know this is SO in my wheelhouse. All those pithy quips – they’re either meaningless drivel without context and I’m like “oh go WORK for a living, tool.” Or rah rah ‘go get ’em’ platitudes without one whiff of HOW to frickin’ get there, actually DO the It you’re wanting to Just Do. For that secret, you subscribe to the emails, pay $29.95 for the book and $49.98 for each seminar and after many years, convince yourself it’s helping. Ahem.

    The Onion last week did a spoof on giving up nights and weekends the rest of your life, because your crackpot dreams deserve a half-assed effort. Needless to say, HA! It’s all by way of saying I’m sick of ‘what do you do, what’s the job title?’ being the defining question. Tired of the ‘run, fly, dream’ crowd preaching success when for some of us – the hardworking, only kind of luck is bad kind – it’s hard to when you’re using all your effort not to drown, sink in quicksand.

    And now that my little rant is over, I’ll quip something about the lives of quiet desperation. gotta get back to work. 🙂 FWIW.

  • Such a refreshing read – everyone makes an equal albeit different contribution to society and to an organisation! Do love the fact that your grandfather still had his on store front!! Only in America is the entrepreneural DNA so deeply embedded! Good for you guys!

  • Mark, that , from you, is praise indeed – Thank you !

  • As a middle-class… baby-boomer raised… millennial, I believe many of us are taught at a young age to drive as fast as possible towards a specific goal (sometimes no matter the cost). If you don’t maintain balance, it can be hard to live a fulfilled life. I’m not even close to being balanced but I like to think I try.

    I celebrate the individuals who have the ability to live life without taking on pressures from the outside world. “You should have a steady pay check.” “You should be an extremely cool entrepreneur.”

    Brennan Manning said it best (multiple times over) :

    “When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.”

    “The ragamuffin who sees his life as a voyage of discovery and runs the risk of failure has a better feel for faithfulness than the timid man who hides behind the law and never finds out who he is at all.”

    “Whenever I allow anything but tenderness and compassion to dictate my response to life–be it self-righteous anger, moralizing, defensiveness, the pressing need to change others…I am alienated from my true self.”

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  • This is a great post! I often want to rant about “Doing good without tweeting about it.” Is it still good if you’ve done it to make yourself look good? Hmmm. 🙂

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  • chrissannelong

    Ah. In the days of Norman Scanlon’s life, he WAS remarkable. And, it is in everyone (yes, I believe everyone) to be remarkable – with their own set of circumstances. To be satisfied, humble, content and authentic. To be kind, considerate and positive. To need a “rainbow bomb” or a jolt of electricity every once in awhile (or a dose of reality – whatever it takes to make someone THINK.) To THINK beyond today, and imagine outside of the box and yet still be one’s true and authentic self. THAT is remarkable. Remarkable to me is what I believe it is. Nothing more, nothing less. Being remarkable is what being human is all about. Thank you for challenging. You are remarkable! 🙂

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  • chrissannelong

    Awesome {rant} Davina. Being someone who understands quiet desperation, I wanted to chime in and say… when there’s nothing to believe in, it’s me or me. I get to choose to keep believing there’s a reason to not sink in the quicksand. I am no stranger to pain, suffering or the power of the human spirit. Keep fighting the fight and believing it worth it!

  • This is so well articulated, Mark. I’ve been on a similar rant lately. Enough with the “do epic shit” already. Enough with the pressure and the mindless positivity platitudes. Yes, let’s be better people, but for the love of love, can we expand our definition of what that means? Thank you so much for writing. I’m really happy to find you through @suddenlyjamie.

  • I think a lot of people confused entrepreneurship with wealth. Most of us aren’t wealthy and really don’t give a crap if we’re wealthy. We’re happy, that’s the difference.

  • Thanks. Have to fight the fight, there’s no one else. End of the day, it’s me, myself and I.

  • Mark. Thanks. The Truth.

    I’m pursuing my dream of being a business. I take care of a wife who has lost so much of her health. I am raising a granddaughter. I work a job to pay the bills that living exacts from us. I pay the medical bills. I stopped following Seth Godin and anyone like him, because they are in LALA Land. I came here to America with a suitcase full of all I had. I’ve won and lost a few things along the way.
    I have had enough of the nuts on the net telling me something that they don’t have themselves.

    I am close to my aspirations, very close. You have helped me along that path. You gave me ten minutes at SoSlam. Those ten minutes gave me more go for it than anything I’ve read or heard from the rainbow bombers, ever.

    Thanks Mark Shaefer, for being just yourself. It is so lacking in people today.

    Oh yes! The book is nearly done, and I am nearly done with it. I will soon see if I have something of a value or not.
    Sincerely Billy Delaney

  • Thanks Mark good idea! I’ll see what I can come up with 🙂

    You make a great point in stating that going big should be measured internally. I really struggle with twitter and such because it doesn’t seem like a place of conversation so much as a bunch of people shouting NEW POST, WATCH MY SEMINAR, LOOK WHAT I DID. I want to connect with people and speak with them, not at them or cherish how many time they clicked a like button.

    I really admire the time you take to individually answer each comment here. No easy task I’m sure!

  • Must do.

  • Lovely. This is a blog post in its own right Beth!

  • Awesome dialogue guys. Thaks @chrissannelong:disqus for chiming in.

  • Thanks Kate. I loved that store. : )

  • Love Brennan Manning and love this quote. Awesome job Kyle.

  • Thanks for taking the time to comment Lauri!

  • I have met big dreamers who are incredible assholes. I have met people who toil quietly in African slums who are true saints. Dreaming big does not assure greatness, at least in my book. : ) Thanks for the very kind comment.

  • Nice Doug.

  • Thou rocketh Billy Delaney.

  • no doubt Mark!

  • I admire you sir! May SoSlam deliver again, and then some. Wish I could be there. Next year.

  • Your post was both thought-provoking and feeling-provoking for me, so thank you! I look at my own grandfather who was a grocer all his life and my father who was a professor all of his in contrast to my own life where I recently decided to abandon my education and decades of experience to do something entirely unrelated that feels so much more aligned to me.

    Due to circumstances, longevity, and long distance communication in all its forms, some of us now have the luxury of living a second life, a new way of being which can represent who we now realize we are after years of following protocol and meeting expectations. I think the heroic piece is in honoring who you are and what you value, regardless of the specific work you choose.

    Yet at the same time I’m conflicted about my recent foray into social media. I’m now doing deep authentic work but I must somehow package it for external consumption to be “successful?” Not having been on the scene long I haven’t been saturated by the rainbow bombs but I do find it challenging to represent myself as I am.

    I still appreciate hearing the tone and nuance of voiced conversation and am still secretly hoping Facebook will disappear. I guess in that sense I’m still hanging out with my grandfather and father.

    Anyway, thanks for your candor and for the opportunity to consider this further.

  • I’m happy you found me!

  • If you’re looking to plow the fields of social media, you’ll have to embrace Facebook : ) Good luck with your new path and thanks so much for commenting!

  • Thanks for your good wishes! As far as that which shall not be named (okay, Facebook), my internal oxen are still balking. 😉

  • “Maraming salamat”, Mark! I know this is what I want: to be truly present for my little one (they who only live in the here-and-now as you know). That’s why at the end of the day, I know I made the right decision to turn down this or that ‘opportunity’. My time with my boy is the best opportunity there is. Just have to remind myself every now and then to be joyful about it. 😉 And I bet you know this, too: I’m not exactly missing out on insights and experiences – I’m getting daily lessons in social strategy from my two-year old.
    Cheers, Mark!

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  • I love the thought of “living your dream.” But most people forget to mention that it’s damn hard work. My dad left home during the depression and had had about 20 different jobs by the time he was 20. He rode the rails and took what he could find – posting billboards, branding cows, selling magazine subscriptions. His dream was to own his own business. He planned carefully, did research, and finally made it happen – after a bunch more jobs, serving in the Navy in WWII, and marrying my mom – he was named Small Businessman of the Year in 1964. People who live their dream MAKE it happen, sometimes against all odds – they don’t “dream” it into happening. But I know what you’re talking about – good post!

  • LOL. I feel your pain!

  • Great example. There was no rainbow bomb that was going to help your dad. You just have to work like hell! Thanks for the great comment!

  • I hear your message in this post but I would suggest that Seth Godin, and so many other that post “rainbow bombs”, are simply trying to push those that are on the fence. We are all intelligent enough to know that not everyone can or even wants to live the “rainbow bomb”. It’s no different than any other idea or theory put out there. Even when past Presidents have said everyone should own a home, how is that possible? It’s an idea and we know “everyone” can’t own a home. We all have choices to make. Even the guy in the military or the person raising 6 kids could choose the “rainbow bomb”…but they don’t have too.

  • chrissannelong

    I don’t think every dreamer is an asshole and I don’t think every person who has toiled quietly in African slums are true saints. I also think the definition of remarkable has nothing to do with notoriety, or even financial success. I would like to suggest that being remarkable has more to do with your personal satisfaction with who you are… What everyone else thinks doesn’t matter. Doing what you do – feeding the kids, keeping them warm focusing on your current situation and making the best of your life… OR, taking an opportunity when it presents itself, because you believe this is the right time, and you are willing to work to achieve your goals. Either one is remarkable – depends on your definition of remarkable. When I saw the photo of your grandfather, I saw a remarkable man. I might have to tell you the story of my step-father someday- he’s pretty remarkable too! 🙂

  • chrissannelong

    I want to find a way to do exactly what you suggest, Meg… expand the definition… We have heard about defining moments, but I think we are at a time when we must redefine what Mark and many people are {ranting} about. How do you propose we expand our definition of what “being better people” means?

  • “We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.” ~G.K. Chesterton

  • The author certainly settled for the pedestrain when writing this article, that’s for sure! 😉

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  • Yay! I agree 100%. Thanks.

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  • Thanks for the dissent. Much appreciated.

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  • Christopher Rollyson

    It always does, given a minimum level of freedom-of-choice

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  • Cheers Mark, keep making us think!

  • Heleen Groot

    I loved reading this post. My life is extremely unremarkable. It always was, but the last three years I got this nasty little disease. Nothing really mind blowing (well for me it is), nothing to fill facebook with, nothing to tweet about. So, I spend most of my time quilting or sitting and looking out the window. Supremely unremarkable. And it was amazing to read your celebration of the unremarkable.

    And yet, and yet.

    I do dream of rainbows. I do dream of making it big. And not the usual dreams of winning the lottery dating Jon Huertas or getting karate lessons from Dolph Lundgren (although….). But no. I dream of changing the world. I dream of really making a difference.

    I have even taken steps to make it happen. Set up a website, talked to people, writing and re-writing plans. All that stuff that needs to happen to take a dream to a reality. Nobody mentions the enormous amount of waiting that has to happen too. Time sitting in the chair, looking out the window.

    So have I fallen into the rainbow category? Perhaps. But for me, the dreaming is a way to deal with the unremarkable times in life. The give colour to the days that just seem to pass without consequence. To leave some footprints in the world.

    Because that is the biggest dream of all. To be remembered for something special.

  • I love it Mark! I do blow rainbow bubbles and want the best for people. What’s best for people? What ever makes them happy and doesn’t hurt others..;) I put my family first and found a way to make a living from the kitchen table, serve as President of the PTA at my children’s school, take care of my elderly In-Laws … I don’t make millions but a living. I HAVE made a huge difference in the lives of the people that matter most to me. For me that is an AMAZING life!

  • Of course I was not making a generalization but an observation. Thanks very much for the contribution

  • Craig Lindberg

    Oh h-ll yeah! Ive been wondering when some brave soul would step forward to blow the whistle on the koolaid dispensing,  bs artists and throw the flag. Typically if something appears too good to be true, it usually is as dear ole Dad would say. No matter how much we all want to be, we are not the children of Lake Wobegon who as Garrison Keillor tells it “are all above average”. “Be remarkable”  they tell us as if it were like changing the part on our hair.  Okay, I’ll admit the rainbow-lives crowd has a legitimate role to inspire but like any group it attracts charlatans. Of these George Carlin’s line is apt; “You’ll be listening to some guy..and saying, “well, he’s fairly intelligent……ahht, he’s full of sh-t!” I’m glad to know that others share this clarity, who still have their feet firmly on the ground, who recognize the practicalities and inconvenient dirty, dogged details that have to be done to build that scaffold to get to the friggin rainbow. Ideas, even the occasional great ones don’t amount to a hill of beans without alot of damn work that largely gets ignored. Our heroes are the men and women like your grandfather so it should come as no surprise either that in this time of hyper activity the brilliance and honesty of a more simple existence is getting attention. Humans are actually more productive when we turn off the noise, not pretending to be the uber exec multi tasking but rather focusing, really focusing on single tasks sequentially. As to those dreaming of building our own businesses I think some of the best advice on succeeding was given to me on the football field decades ago; you have to be able to execute well on the fundamentals before the plays will work. And behind all great performances, there’s much practice, failure and hard work. Of course preaching that wouldn’t sell alot of subscriptions, books or seminar tickets.
    Thank you  Mark!

  • nice to get to know a little about your grandfather! It wasnt a ‘simpler time’, back then. same values and pleasures are still thriving today.

    rainbow bombs! finally, ??*that’s what those are?!* sometimes i choose to appreciate them, share them…. sometimes when i get 15 in 5 minutes i realize i have just spent 5 minutes of my life i can never get back..when i could have been *doing* my life. my simple, fantastic, regular, privledged, American life…

    When I put notable events in my calendar to remember through the years, its always about time spent with family and friends, or visiting special places or events. Now, the ‘remarkable life’ folks have made me think on this of late. I do intend to make other milestones more noteworthy in my calendar in the context of my ‘life goals and plans’. ?Yet, when i look back on years of calendars, I am certain, the relationships will fill me with gratitude for a well-lived life, mord than anything else.

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  • This post received so many comments. I believe this is my favorite. You are a gifted writer. It will happen.

  • (clapping)

  • You’re welcome. Thank you. That comment was well above average, even by Lake Wobegone standards.

  • Thanks so much for caring enough to comment Anne!

  • That was a good read my friend – what did you really wanna say? come on… Haha! Time for some Dead Kennedy’s “Chicken Shit Conformist.” Cheers brah!

  • cantaloupe

    Yes times a thousand! I am so sick of people telling other people to drop everything and reach for the stars and blah blah blah blah. Sometimes that is just absolutely inconceivable. And I am sick of feeling guilty because I have to get up and go to my trying job and come home too emotionally drained to reach for anything except the remote. (Figuratively speaking since I watch all television on my computer… but you know what I mean.) I totally could have written this entry, so thank you for doing it first.

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  • Craig Lindberg

    A bit of my own rant too Mark and I appreciate you commenting. Your blog struck a chord for a lot of us it seems. And maybe I should back off on the caffeine 🙂

  • A while back I read an article about following your passion vs pursuing your purpose and what’s the difference?

    Following your passion is selfish. It’s all about you. That can, however, be a positive. Think Michael Phelps. Very inspiring and if your calling is to be an Olympian I salute you.

    Pursuing your purpose is selfless. It’s all about everyone else. Think Mother Theresa or maybe just parents who mortgage the house to put the kids thru college.

    So while some suggest we need to redefine what it means to be a good person I say instead we need to include alternative definitions.

    I say good people: are people who follow their passions; are people who pursue their purpose.

    And the world is a better place for having them both.

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  • I delight in my anonymity and commonality. Your post is a rainbow bomb for people like me. Thank you.

  • “YESSSSS!”

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  • Mark,

    Around a year ago, I sat in a writer’s conference to help encourage my own dream of writing. Pompously, this speaker kept declaring that it would just happen if you claim it. After all it worked for him…

    If it weren’t for having to purchase a new device, I would’ve thrown my laptop at him. So you are saying, I just have to want it to be it? Are you kidding me? At what point does wanting it dictate that we no longer have to work for it? Almost eight years I have sat at a keyboard writing my passion. I guess I just didn’t want it bad enough.

    While I can agree that sometimes we want glitter to pass from our buttocks to affirm we are special, I agree also that this is not what we need. We don’t need a chant of conjuring dreams to make them happen, but rather the bare-knuckled fight through the sludge of hard work to become human and someone to stand beside you in the muck pushing you to work harder.

    Thank you for this rainbow shattering post of what real life is for the dreamer.

  • I think that is why many folks I know seem to be “pulling in” a little bit and getting to a smaller group of friends for most of their engagement. They are tired of the rainbows…or even the “yes men” when they decide to drop their own rainbow bombs.

    Be real – be the difference – and be willing to have discussions with folks who may not always share your reviews, but you can share a mutual respect afterwards. Different opinions do not imply differences in intelligence.

  • Patty

    I am so grateful to find this article! I’ve been feeling exactly this for a long time, but didn’t think anybody else in the world would acknowledge the truth in it. I feel like those “unwise inspirational messages” actually hurt a lot of people. They’re false and unhelpful, but masquerading as positive – and this in a time when people desperately need real wisdom and positivity. Thank you, Mark!!

  • It’s always good to remember that:

    1. We only get the books, massive facebook posts and retweets about the winners, the losers (the majority) rarely show up on the radar.

    2. The majority of people making the case for dream chasing need you
    to believe it so they can maintain their position as “social media
    expert”, best selling author, or religious figure and protect their
    income flow.

  • You’re welcome … And get some rest! : )

  • Thanks for adding your perspective Victor!

  • Ha! Thanks (I think! )

  • I hate that myth, and I hate it more when people in authority perpetuate it. Thanks for sharing your story Alycia.

  • The whole “yes” audience is another phenomenon that amazes me. Quite a lack of critical thinking out there. Thanks for sharing your wisdom Brian.

  • Agree. I think it does hurt people too. I recently wrote about this study that showed that for about one-third of people, the overwhelming feeling they have about Facebook is jealousy. The rainbow bombs are just another way to support feelings of inadequacy, I think.

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  • Yes! That is all. You’ve said it so well. And Seth Godin stopped being innovative and useful about 10 years ago. Not going to apologise for not liking his work it just doesn’t work for me.

  • I hesitate to characterize anybody as a loser. We all start out the same. Sometimes shit happens. That usually makes the difference one way or the other.

  • OK, that makes two of us. I do like Seth but recently saw a list of his most famous quotes over the years and they all could have been in his latest book. I think he needs to poke his box : )

  • By “loser” I meant anyone that doesn’t achieve “business celebrity” (not the best word choice). It’s absurd how small a slice of the business community is on the radar. We get articles on Jobs, Bezos and Zuck and yet most would be hard pressed to name more than 10% of the Fortune 500 CEOs.

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  • Hear, hear, my friend. While I do like positive encouragement, so many ‘leaders’ talk as though all you have to do is think a thought and it will happen. Anyone who has ever done anything in life, knows that there is always hard work involved, no matter what you do. Whether you work for someone else or yourself it is no unicorn parade – even when things are going in grand style.

    Unfortunately, I think that a lot of people buy into this idea that they should just dream and those dreams should just come true because they ‘deserve it’ or something. Sadly, those people are in for a rude awakening.

    And hey, well done on criticizing Seth. I liked it.

    Annie

  • Thanks very much for the kind and thoughtful comment Annie.

  • I am so bored of the lie that fame is the apex of human endeavour.

  • Actually Mark, THIS is what I needed to hear. I’ve actually come across many blogs and podcasts recently that do exactly what you talk about here. “Go, do big things. I you’re not doing what you love, change now! Find what you love and get paid to do it!” I completely agree with you. I’m alway left saying, “Yeah, but how?” I don’t know yet what it is I love doing. I can’t just up and quit my job to pursue a dream, unless I want to become fodder for collection agencies. I’d love to chase a dream, but i can’t at the moment, and I don’t think that those who are unable to do so, for whatever reason, should be chastised for settling or not making some drastic change in their lives. Thanks for this, Mark.

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  • Marvelous. This mirrors thoughts I’ve been harboring for some time. Thank you for articulating them so well. I’ve taken the liberty of promoting this piece to my tiny tribe and hope many others do the same.

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  • KlytusSoothsayer

    Well said 🙂

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  • Georgene

    “How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?” – Seth Godin

    That might be the most blindered White Man thing I’ve heard… well, at least all day. It thoroughly ignores the systematic inequalities that keep poor folks poor, that keep women silent when they should shout, that keep people of color under constant suspicion. How dare I and others settle for less indeed. More like how dare it be tolerable that some get less despite the fact that it is patently not easy to get recognition for merit without the brutal contextualization of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc.

    And as noted in the post, it thoroughly disregards people who have zero desire to create The Next Big thing and gamble their comfort & ability to provide comfort for others in the process. I for one am grateful that the addiction to constant, explosive growth isn’t thoroughly universal. It’s unsustainable at the most fundamental levels and anecdotally at least seems to lead to a lot of pain and suffering as people are hurt by the pressure.

    Celebrate and support people who dream big and push hard and take risks, but not at the expense of denigrating those who don’t. Risk aversion is a perfectly reasonable response in a world that is unforgiving of failure. (You know, the lack of forgiveness that says “how dare you settle for less” and immediately shames you for your station in life, regardless of how you arrived there.)

    Combat relentless exceptionalism.

  • I think I’m going to keep this one.

  • Tim

    Thank you. I lived outside the box once. I had it all. Then I had a heart attack at the age of 39. Then another at 40. Then heart surgery. Today I’m 52. I woke up early this morning. It was quiet except for birds singing. It was crisp for what will be a hot humid day. I’ll see some friends in a few hours. I might go out for lunch or I may just come home. What is amazing is three grown children excelling in their life’s passion, and I’m here to experience it.

  • Blair Glaser

    You had me at “Rainbow Bombs.”
    Thank you for being brave enough to alert us all to the fact that Emperor Has No Clothes.
    Tremendous respect from me to you, and to your Grandad and for reminding and helping me to transcend Self-Interest, which is a big deterrent to true Intimacy, which is for me — in my life and work — so valuable and becoming rarer and rarer to come by.

  • Thanks Blair!

  • Michelle DeSpain

    If it weren’t for the inspiration from Seth’s blog, I would have suffocated and rotted in my thoroughly unremarkable cube long ago. There’s no place like hope. 🙂

  • What a great post, Mark. We get so wrapped up in personal fulfillment we’re forgetting that true fulfillment comes from the types of things in your list at the end of the post. I would take it a step further and add that to the extent we fixate on personal fulfillment, we detract from the welfare of our children, we abandon the less fortunate, undermine our leadership performance, etc. We can only serve one master.

  • Dennis Fischman

    Thank you, fellow Pittsburgh native!

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  • JS Wayne

    This post interested me greatly, as did the one that led me here. While I agree with many of the points you raised, it seems to me there are a couple of points you overlooked.

    As one of those “selfish” glory hounds you discuss in this article, I am a thirty-something college student eking out a bare subsistence living on freelance writing work while I indulge my passion of writing novels. The advantage I enjoy is that I am single, my work pulls in enough money to keep my bills paid and me in cigarettes, I have no dependents, and I can set my own hours to a certain degree. If any of the many writers I know who dreams of self-supporting writing and not having to work a “real job” suggested quitting their steady-paying 9-to-5 to pursue their dream, I would undoubtedly be horrified and tell them not to do it without some kind of fallback plan, especially if they have a marriage and/or kids and/or other dependents who rely on them.

    The reasons why?
    1) Because I know, from experience, what a long, hard road they face.
    2) I work 12-16 hours a day on average. For that, I make about 33 cents on the dollar what a full-time employee making $10 an hour would. I am the accountant, the social media expert, the production manager, the pack mule, and the janitor. Wearing that many hats, you’d think I should be making more…and you’d be absolutely right.
    2) My income is relatively unpredictable from one day to the next. I can project on a monthly basis approximately what my earnings will be, but I can never say just how long it will be to the day or hour before I get paid for the work I did a week or month ago.
    3) Being an entrepreneur in any profession or discipline is hard work. Regardless of other factors, you have to produce something people want and make it pay. Often I have to do this with nothing but lint in my pocket and my teeth grinding in my sleep as I picture all the hours I could have been working at a dull, safe, meaningless but profitable place of employment. Would it make my life more comfortable? Yes. Would I likely despise every minute of it? Most definitely.

    So, realizing that I’m effectively making your case for you, and lest you think I’m devolving into a self-pity party, let me now switch gears.

    I do what I do because I love it and it is profitable, albeit not on the scale I could wish. It satisfies and fulfills me on a level that nothing else ever could. Having worked as everything from a bartender to a corrections officer, I can say this with some authority. What I do entails risk, dedication, and a level of determination that the average person with a 9-to-5 is unlikely ever to have to muster, let alone survive on. What they do takes forbearance and patience, but determination? That’s pretty rare in my experience. Get up, take whatever the boss decides to shove at you, collect your paycheck, go home, go to bed, do it all over again the next day.

    This, then, brings us to the issue of relative skill and “superiority.”

    From where I’m sitting, there is no such division. I can write up an entire universe in a few dozen keystrokes and destroy it just as readily, conjuring and annihilating to suit my will and the purpose of the story. But I have to be in a house to do this. Can’t I just write myself a house? No. I have the basic skills to build one, but I’d be more comfortable placing my theoretical domicile in the hands of a skilled contractor to create the actual structure. If my septic tank gets stopped up or mysteriously explodes, I’m not even going to attempt to fix it myself, because I’ll make a dog’s breakfast of it. Instead, I’ll call a qualified plumber who can correct the problem. I won’t try to represent myself in court, conduct open-heart surgery on myself, or try to impose a citizen’s arrest on a criminal. (The latter assumes I have another, better option available at the time, like a police officer near at hand. Otherwise, I can’t entirely dismiss this one.)

    The world needs writers, artists, entrepreneurs, and CEOs. The world also needs plumbers, electricians, grocery-store clerks, and short-order cooks. All of us have our niche and our role to play in making the world go round. For those who are happy at what many sneeringly call “menial labor,” hey, great! If you’re enjoying your work, it’s not down to me to tell you how you ought to feel. But those people with other goals and objectives, and the wherewithal and determination to pursue them deserve, not necessarily approbation nor applause, but not to have their dreams mocked or made light of either.

    For some people, the dream is stability. For others, the dream is to inspire and stand out from the crowd. Without 10,000 plumbers, butchers, and metal workers, there could never have been an Einstein, a Shakespeare, or a Mozart. We remember those who stand out, but largely ignore the cast of thousands who conspired, intentionally or not, to put them on the stage.

    My apologies for the length of this response. To cut it short: our world needs dreams and real goods and services in equal measure. Anyone who can supply either deserves to be celebrated on their own merits, not because (or in spite of) their profession or the risk, or lack thereof, it entails..

    Best,

    J.S. Wayne

  • First and foremost, welcome to the blog and thank you for this gift. Truly an exceptional comment and piece of writing.

    I hope you did not miss this important sentence I has near the end: “I’m not saying you should not follow your dreams. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be remarkable or fight every day to realize your promise and potential. You should.”

    I too have fought through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship and creating a career out of writing. I am still fighting those battles today and probably always will.

    This post was not meant to diminish any person or any dream. It was to challenge the prevailing and unrealistic “Barney” message of our culture. I imagine that if the prevailing message of our culture was “Never follow your dreams — work in a factory” that you might have written a post like this too, right?

    I work with entrepreneurs and big dreamers almost every day and I love what I do but through this post I just wanted to create a balance in the message, or at least make a dent in it.

    Again, thanks. I hope you’ll return frequently and add your thoughts to the community!

  • JS Wayne

    I confess to be slightly embarrassed, because it appears I DID in fact miss that part. My error entirely.
    For what it’s worth, I agree with you about the unrealistic “Barney” messages you spoke so eloquently against. “Everything will be perfect if you just _________.” Anyone who tells someone that is trying to sell something. That’s why I don’t advise other writers to quit their day jobs until they KNOW the big contract is in the bag.
    The world needs plumbers just as much as writers. Some days, even more.
    Thank you for your kind praise. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and I look forward to perusing more of your work in future.

    Best,

    J.S. Wayne

  • Well-said! (I just found your post because of your comment on Jon Morrow’s blog post). Not everyone is enthusiastic about rainbow bombs…your perspective resonates very well with what many clients tell me they want for their lives.

  • Guest

    My dad worked as an internal auditor for a majour corporation. He did so for 40 years. He was not profoundly moved to do this with his life. It is not the way he saw his future when he graduated from a very small high school (grad class 17) in Missouri. Most days, I imagine he didn’t even like what he did for a living (esp. the last 10 years when corporation got bought by even bigger corporation). But he did so because he had 2 kids & a wife (who liked to spend money). We never went on a family vacation that did not involve a trip to visit our grandparents. We lived modestly & always had enough.
    When my father died in 2005, there were no headlines, no frothy eulogies. I suspect that my sister & I are the only 2 people on the planet that remember who he was, what he stood for, that he lived at all. And really, that’s the best most of us are going to get out of our lives.

  • Awesome. Please come back!

  • Ha ha! Good post Mark. I love the line about “golf cart on botox.” I really identify with the case about the couple with the two special needs kids. We have a special needs son who just started having seizures. My wife and I struggle to make sure he has a relaxing and regular night time routine so he doesn’t wake up in that “seizure zone” in the morning because of lack of sleep.

    I’ve been kicking myself for not blogging or for not being able to drag myself out of bed at 4:30am to “meditate”, “visualize” and repeat my “affirmations.” You’ve kind of helped me take it easy on myself and feel proud of what I’m already doing.

    Thanks Mark!

  • Generally, those who employ “rainbow bombs” are doing it for a reason. If they can keep people focused on what’s not quite magical enough in their lives – keep them chasing after the illusory pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow – then they can continue to sell them stuff.

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